Doors Open

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 28, 2012 under Commentary | 5 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-02-28 at 3.19.05 PM

It’s almost unfathomable that it’s come to this point, but Mark Cuban is fielding questions regarding whether the Mavs might cut Lamar Odom mid-season. That’s clearly not a possibility; Odom is too valuable an asset to release with closure as the only payoff. Frankly, that the idea is present and festering at all is a bit baffling, if only because it seems indicative of the clear disconnect between the organization and everyone fluttering around outside the castle walls.

Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle, for their part, have chosen their words carefully when it comes to all things Odom. They have supported him at every turn, vouched for his value, and preached patience. They’ve done exactly what they should be doing in these bizarre circumstances, as they’ve managed to embrace Odom as a member of the team and the organization without coddling him. The Mavericks have opened their offense for him, and made it their mission to establish him in his comfort zones. Carlisle has worked with Odom personally to ensure a smooth transition, only to make relatively marginal progress. It just hasn’t clicked yet, but Carlisle and Cuban appear no less welcoming than they were at the start of the season.

At risk of generalizing, most Mavs fans have adopted a far less accommodating stance in regard to Odom’s continued struggles. On some level, it’s understandable; it can be frustrating and confusing to see a player struggle for anything other than basketball reasons, particularly as we attempt to assess the game in a vacuum. But such is indisputably the case with Odom, who stands as an unfortunate example of how shadows from outside the arena can creep onto the hardwood.

This is no mirage. This cannot be explained away. This is life lingering in the back of a player’s mind, much as it has that pesky habit of doing. It’s not a distraction; basketball is the distraction, with reality as Odom’s far too haunting home. His cousin is gone. His father is ill. He’s a man with a lot going on between his ears, which is a far more healthy result than an overwhelming sense of numbness that might improve the performance of the player, but would ultimately be far more taxing on the man. Odom is dealing with things in the best ways that he knows how, and you’ll understand if he doesn’t apologize for how his personal trials might impact your favorite team.

Odom won’t be cut this season, and a trade won’t jive with the Mavs’ long-term financial plans. He’s in Dallas to stay, for the moment at least, and can do nothing but find his own way. Count on him if you’d like, discount him if you’d rather, but never forget that basketball is a mere subplot.

  • Keith Boyea

    I'm trying to be sensitive to what Odom has going on in his personal life. But basketball is his job, and he's paid handsomely to do that job.  Every office drone like me has crap, drama and assorted nonsense going on in his or her life–in fact a lot of people have problems far worse than whatever Lamar Odom has going on right now.  And their employer is almost certainly less generous than Mark Cuban and we still have to show up and perform.
    Intellectually, I know the Mavs are stuck Lamar Odom through this season, but that doesn't change the frustration I feel when he turns the ball over, appears to loaf down the court, or jack up another ill-advised three pointer.  As far as I can tell, the crowds at AAC and the Mavs organization in general are doing everything they can to be supportive of him.  There's a fine line between being supportive and coddling, and I'm not sure we, as fans, are on the correct side of it.

    • Henry

      But it's baffling, too. This is a guy who is playing for the last big contract he will get as a professional athlete. Normally, contract years are great incentives for aging athletes to put in a remarkable season. Watching him put in a season of uninspired play that is combined with a sudden loss of basketball IQ makes me wonder what's going on in his head.
      I don't mean to be insensitive, but what he has had happen in his life happens to a lot of us. That's why they made the bumper sticker about it happening.
      We don't get to just fall apart. Or maybe we do. 

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  • Fantas1986

    This perspective is insane. As the other commenters have pointed out, basketball is no more a subplot for Lamar as accounting or teaching or retail management is for the millions of other working human beings in the world.

    Every one of those people deals with an equal amount of tragedy and hardship over the course of their working life and are still expected to, at some point, resume their job and continue to perform. Not to mention 99.9% of us don't have the luxury of extended leave, buy outs, or retirement before 30.

    Look no further than deeper in the Mavericks bench, where young
    Rodrigue Beaubois just buried his father and still showed up to play tonight.

    I'm typically a big fan of yours Rob, and rarely do I disagree with the points you make. With that said, you are way off base on this one.